In so many ways, introducing new technologies and software systems into your medical practice can save time and money, as well as enhance the overall patient experience. However, if not implemented properly, these same systems can actually decrease patient satisfaction and end up requiring a lot more time to use.
One such technology that can be both a blessing and a curse is electronic health records (EHR) also known as EME (electronic medical records). Here are a few important tips to help you increase the efficiency of EHR systems, save you time, and improve the happiness of your patients.
Electronic vs. Paper Charts
It is easy to see how switching from paper charts to an EHR system could be advantageous for any medical practice. Electronic records can improve the quality of communication between doctor and patient, store sensitive information more securely, and increase patient access to their medical information.
However, EHR also has a downside. It requires physicians to face their computer screens rather than the patient, and can convey a shift of the primary focus of the office visit away from the patient. Consequently, EHR can significantly decrease patient satisfaction, even though it tends to increase the total time that the doctor spends in the exam room with each patient.
According to a recent article published in Medical Economics, another major problem with doctors taking their own EHR notes is that it virtually eliminates their ability to read the patient’s nonverbal cues. Body language and eye contact convey important messages that may be missed due to the necessary focus on the computer screen. Most notably, nonverbal communication is key to recognizing and responding to a patient’s comfort level, engagement, and satisfaction with the visit.
Maximizing the Potential of EHR Systems in Your Medical Practice
While EHR can create new challenges, such as decreased doctor-patient engagement and missed nonverbal cues, there are ways to implement this system into your practice without having to sacrifice the quality of your time with your patients.
One possibility is to use scribes to take your EHR notes for you so that you can get back to focusing directly on your patients. Scribes should first be trained in several standardized areas, such as medical terminology, how to take high-quality notes in any given medical situation, and what types of questions are generally discussed during a typical office visit. Obviously, scribes should also have a working knowledge of how your practice’s EHR software works and be able to quickly and easily navigate the system.
With this scribing method in place, one study performed by Dr. Jerry Hizon of Motion Sports MD in California found that doctors can increase the amount of time they spend looking directly at their patients during each office visit from about 40 percent to 93.7 percent. During this study, Dr. Hizon was also able to see about 35 patients each day, while maintaining an average patient satisfaction score of 4.9/5.0 (Medical Economics).
When a scribe completes each set of notes, the physician reviews them to make sure the information is accurate. However, this process takes far less time than to type the notes from scratch.
Another consideration is that if you use the computer during an office visit, try to set up the exam room in such a way that the patient can also view the screen. This can be a great way to improve communication and show your patients that you’re not ignoring them while you’re on the computer.
Implementing EHR systems into your medical practice is an important step toward growing your business and improving the patient experience. Just be sure that you take the time to train a scribe or two to help you integrate EHR into your practice without having to sacrifice the satisfaction of your patients or your valuable time.
Stay tuned for more medical practice tips! You can also connect with me (Leslie Baumann) on LinkedIn, where I share more articles.
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